HOLLAND FC reaped the rewards from a blistering start as they defeated Little Oakley 2-0 to book their place in the First Division Knockout Cup quarter-finals.

Early goals from Keelan Sorrell and Steve Eaton put the hosts on the road to victory and set up a last-eight encounter at Whitton United.

Both strikes came in the first ten minutes.

First, Eaton was fouled in the area by Luis Reynolds and Sorrell confidently slotted his low penalty beyond keeper Luke Tynan.

Then Eaton connected with a long ball forward and lifted the ball over the onrushing Acorns shot-stopper.

“We got off to the best possible start and after that I was really pleased with the way we stayed disciplined,” said Holland joint-boss Jon Willis.

“We kept our shape and were really good defensively, deserving our clean sheet.

“We didn’t look in danger and if we were fitter – bearing in mind we haven’t had many training sessions together, because of the weather – we would have gone on to score three or four.

“We kept breaking but didn’t have the legs to make it count, probably because we were working so hard defensively.

“We didn’t let them back in the game, though.

“Had they got one, we might have become a bit edgy but I couldn’t have asked for anything more in terms of work-rate.

“I thought we played some good stuff in the first half.

“The second was a bit messy but we killed the game and did what we needed to do.

“The boys did exactly what I asked of them and it just shows that if you work hard and do things right, you get your rewards.”

The rest of the tie was fast and furious but there were few notable chances.

Ben Hammond saw a close-range effort from a corner cleared just in front of the line by Sorrell.

Oakley substitute Harry Mann dragged a low shot from the right wide of the far post in the second half.

And Holland’s Jamie Guy went even closer right at the death, turning and volleying a powerful effort against the bar.

However, with no further goals, it was the hosts who safely marched on in the Thurlow Nunn League competition.

“It would be nice to keep this cup run going, although it’ll be a tough game at Whitton,” added Willis.

“That’s what we’re building towards and a top-ten finish and continuing this cup run is what I’m aiming for this season.

“To finish with some silverware would be the icing on the cake and to take a cup to our new ground would be fantastic.

“I believe we’re capable of that and I think we’re as good as anyone in this league.”

Holland had received a bye in the first round of the competition, while Oakley won 2-0 at AFC Sudbury Reserves on December 5.

Willis and Rob Batten’s side will now be striving to become the first Essex winners of the cup since Brightlingsea Regent lifted the silverware in 2013.

Former Colchester United striker Guy was a high-profile name in their starting line-up, having joined the coastal club and made his debut in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Framlingham Town.

Eaton also scored in that match but the defeat left Holland 13th in the table, one point and three places above Oakley heading into Tuesday’s encounter at the Rush Green Bowl.

However, Holland have five games in hand on their Tendring neighbours and their next three matches are all away from the Bowl.

They head to AFC Sudbury Reserves on Saturday, followed by a trip to Norwich CBS on January 20.

Three days later they make short journey to Oakley’s Memorial Ground for a rearranged league game that was postponed just after Christmas.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in my players,” added Willis. “I look at the squad and there aren’t many I’d swap for others in the league.

“I’m happy and they’re working hard for me.

“The more they play together, the better they’ll gel and then they’ll start believing and trusting each other.

“If we can build a really competitive squad we’ll be in a strong position, because that’s when you get the best out of players.”